As one of my classes has us practice what’s called “critical exploration,” our strongest commandment is “Thou shall not lead.” For a teacher who’s in charge of guiding a classroom full of wandering students to an understanding of certain topics, that commandment seems like an impossibility. As my smaller discussion group hashed over this problem, we got talking about the difference between leading and leadership, and an image presented itself to me.
“I’m imagining leading students is like leading a horse,” I said. “One person at the head of the horse, almost pulling the horse along exactly where the guy wants him to go. That’s what we’re being asked not to do. But what about a shepherd? The sheep go wherever the grass is good and fill their stomachs—they know how to do that. The shepherd just keeps them together, fends of wolves, and makes sure they don’t fall of cliffs or eat poisonous plants, right? Isn’t that more what we’re being asked to do?”
The general consensus was that the metaphor works, to a point. Of course, if it fit precisely, it wouldn’t be metaphor, right? There is little I love more than a properly over-extended metaphor.
Another aspect of the class that is essential to our work is looking at how the teacher engages with the student’s work. If the work is the grass, the question becomes whether or not the shepherd eats the grass. If so, do you get down on your hands and knees, or do you grab a fork and plate? Do you become a sheep and join their grazing when the moon is full?
This idea quickly led to the name “were-sheep,” which we agreed worked pretty well, because there’s the implication that the sheep might also be able to become shepherds for themselves. As the goal of critical exploration is to create students who can teach themselves, I think the idea continues to work (well, on a certain level). So if you’re wondering what marvelous things I’m learning at Harvard, there’s you’re answer: Classrooms need to be full of were-sheep.
As for cooking, I made a slightly varied version of Mom’s shepherd’s pie last night that was absolutely delicious, so I thought I’d share.
In a large frying pan, fry together:
1 Well-chopped Onion
1 Tbsp. Garlic
1/2 tsp. Sage
Dash fresh ground pepper
1 lb. Hamburger
When onions are translucent and meat is fully cooked, drain the grease, then stir in:
Dash (or two) Gravy Master
Place seasoned meat evenly in the bottom of a casserole dish (one size down from a 9X13). Over this, layer evenly:
2 Cans Cream-Style Corn
For the top layer, spread 2-3 potatoes worth of You-Can-Lead-A-Horseradish-To-Water Mashed Potatoes (Mashed potatoes as usual, but don’t fear the butter, and add a Tbsp or so of horseradish.)
Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 min., or until brown.